Harlow: A Military Bad Boy Romance: The Bradford Brothers, page 26
“No, thank you, Riley.”
The last call is from my dad. I hesitate before answering, but I decide that my relationship with my parents is one more thing to face head-on, while I’m at it.
“Hey Riley, haven’t heard much from you lately. How’s it going? How are things at work? And with Brian? How did your big case go? Have you been promoted to partner?”
My dad has always been so happy that I was engaged to the boss’s son. I’m not sure if he’s happier about that or the fact that I work— make that worked— at a prestigious firm. And now neither one of those things is still true. The old me would have been afraid to face him, or would have delayed telling him. But this is the new me, and I feel more confident and self-assured.
“Well Dad, there have actually been quite a few changes in my life.”
“Really? What changes?”
His tone sounds concerned.
“I’ll tell you all about it when I see you and Mom at our next dinner,” I tell him. “But I’ve just been discovering who I really am and who I want to be. And some of it may be pretty surprising.”
He clears his throat and then says, “Well, Riley, your mom and I love you no matter what. I do hope you keep practical considerations like financial security and future happiness in mind, no matter what decisions you’re making. But if you’re happy, then we’re happy.”
This wasn’t at all the response I was expecting. Well, the middle part was, but not the first and last parts. Then again, I’ve never really been so sure in announcing my plans before— neither have I ever really known when I wanted to do, except what everyone else wanted me to do. I guess maybe there’s hope for my relationship with my parents after all.
“See you soon, Dad. Love you.”
As I hang up the phone, I consider today a success overall, even though something— or someone— is still gnawing at my thoughts. It’s hard to believe I’ll never see Jensen again. But at least I’m doing the best that I can without him. And I know the experience I’ve shared with him has changed me for the better.
I walk into the fancy office of Sherman Anders, the private attorney I’d hired to represent me. Tim had suggested him along with a few other possibilities when he politely told me I’m no longer welcome to use the services of the Veterans’ Legal Alliance. This Sherman guy was the most expensive, so I figure he’s the best. Or at least that the kind of defense that I want will be able to be purchased.
“Mr. Bradford,” he says, staring across his wooden desk from his executive chair. “I’ve reviewed the file I received from your former attorney. Let me cut to the chase. You’ve switched lawyers twice and there is very little time before your trial. Also, the judge has ruled that if you are to use an expert in your case— which I would greatly advise you to do— you will need to use Dr. Roth from the motion that Ms. Morrell filed.”
“I know. I didn’t know where she was going with that motion, and I can’t believe the judge stuck me with the result of it.”
“Mr. Bradford.” Sherman glares at me as if I’m a disobedient child who is purposefully not understanding what he’s saying. “Ms. Morrell did everything right in your case, and even under the rather difficult circumstances of having to do it all the way you wanted her to do it. I believe she was on her way to winning your case, and I can’t understand why you continue to switch lawyers, even after you had the incredible luck to have an associate formerly of the esteemed Holt firm working on your case.”
I sigh, doing my best not to roll my eyes. Obviously he’s under the fancy- firm- name spell and doesn’t understand why I had to fire Ms. Morrell.
“She’s still with the Holt firm,” I correct Sherman. “I was just a temporary gig. To impress them.” And her finance’s father. “And to get her job back faster.” And her ex fiancé.
“Mr. Bradford, since you believe you know so much about Ms. Morrell’s professional status, I must correct your misconceptions. The way I hear it, Ms. Morrell is out on her own full time now, and is taking a more active role in the Veterans’ Legal Alliance. She tendered her resignation at Holt after outing some rather devious and unethical practices of theirs to one of their clients.”
I stare at him, flabbergasted. Riley did what?
“So while I’d be happy to represent you,” Sherman continues, “I feel compelled to tell you that you made a mistake by firing Ms. Morrell. I charge a very hefty retainer, and in your case most of my work has been done for me by Ms. Morell. I can just take what she’s done and run with it at trial. I think you’ll likely win, but I also think you’d do just as well with Ms. Morrell, who I know to be an excellent trial attorney, and she is free to you, through the VLA.”
I’m confused by this lawyer’s honesty. Does he want my money or not? And he’s missing the entire point.
“Mr. Anders, I don’t want to use that defense. I am only going to hire you— or any lawyer— who clearly understands that.”
“You don’t want to use self defense as your defense?” Now he’s looking at me as if I’m crazy. “What other possible defense could possibly be better?”
“No, not that,” I tell him, exasperated. “I don’t want to use the PTSD defense.”
He stares at me quizzically.
“Ms. Morrell wasn’t using a PTSD defense in your case.”
Now this is starting to get absurd.
“I’m sorry? She hired Dr. Levi Ross, a PTSD expert.”
“Mr. Bradford. She hired him to testify that you don’t have PTSD.”
I can’t even think straight. Did I unjustly fire Riley? Was she really doing what I’d asked, all along?
“Because she anticipates that the prosecution is going to say that you have PTSD and you flipped out due to flashbacks and pummeled the victim for no good reason. She is prepared to have the expert testify that you do not have PTSD and that anyone in your situation would have reacted the way you did, with good reason.”
I feel like such an idiot. And all I can think of is Riley.
“Mr. Anders. I thank you very much for your time. My consultation fee was money well spent. Thank you for explaining to me what I missed. I’m going to take my file back now. There’s someone I need to personally deliver it to.”
“I think that’s a wise decision, Mr. Anders. She’s the rightful owner of that file, much more than I am.”
I’m at home reviewing my new client files that I picked up from Tim, when my door bell rings. I look out the window— it’s nearly dark, and pouring down rain, and I’m not expecting anyone.
I throw on a hoodie around the thin tank top I’m wearing, and pull it around me without zippering it as I hesitantly open my front door. I leave the screen door open.
He looks like a wet puppy dog, except a thousand times more pitiful and more adorable.
“Riley, I’m so sorry. I completely misjudged you.”
“About my case. And just about… everything.”
I look at him dubiously, having no idea what caused his sudden change of heart. Someone must have told him that I’d quit Holt. But I didn’t do that for him. I’d done it for me. Of course, I don’t know if I would have gotten to that point if it hadn’t been for him.
I just stand there looking at him, confused, yet hopeful, until he says, “Riley, open the door.”
I push open the screen door, gently, but as soon as I have it partway open he nearly rips it from my hands and pulls me into his arms. He kisses me in a way that is somehow rough and gentle at the same time. I return the kiss with equal fervor and he runs his hands up and down my wet, now- messy hair.
I point out the obvious to him in between kisses.
“I know. Somebody better invite me inside before I melt.”
I grab his hand and lead him into my house. It feels new b
He picks me up and grabs my ass. I wrap my legs around his broad pelvis.
“I really am sorry I misjudged you completely,” he whispers into my ear.
“To be fair, you judged me correctly for part of it. You just also… inspired me to change.”
“Is that a good thing?”
“It must be. It must mean I want to date you.”
He pauses, his breath panting faintly near my ear.
“Don’t you want to date me?”
I feel rather pathetic, having put it all out there like that and not having gotten anything back in return.
“No. I want you to be my girlfriend.”
“I thought you didn’t have girlfriends.”
“You’re right. I didn’t have girlfriends. But there’s a first time for everything, Miss Full- Time Veterans’ Legal Alliance lawyer.”
I laugh as he kisses my neck and squeezes my ass harder.
“Which way to the bedroom?”
“It’s upstairs,” I say with a frown.
He begins walking to the stairs, carrying me and still kissing me along the way.
I’m really heavy, I want to say, but as he easily takes the first stair and then the second, I change my mind and say “You’re really strong,” instead.
“So say the men I carried out of caves and rescued off of mountains,” he says.
I laugh and he adds, “Not to brag or anything….”
He’s not even winded when we get to the top. He turns me around and lays me down on my bed, with my legs still wrapped around him.
“What a sexy outfit you wore to greet me at your front door in,” he says, as he peels off my hoodie.
“I had no idea you were coming,” I protest.
“But you’re sure glad I did.”
“Ha,” I say, as he pulls my tank top over my head and then expertly unsnaps my bra. “That’s true.” I reach my head up to kiss his amazing lips.
“Wait, what is this?” he asks, playfully pulling away. “No backing away anymore? What happened to sexual relationships with your clients being prohibited?”
“Loophole,” I say, pulling him closer to me once again. “I’m not your lawyer. You fired me, remember?”
“But I need you to be my lawyer again.”
He looks down at me, genuinely upset. It’s touching that he wants me to represent him, but I still can’t help but laugh.
“You’re in luck. A lawyer is allowed to represent a client if there’s a pre- existing sexual relationship, but she’s not allowed to become sexually involved with a client during the course of her representation if no such relationship existed before.”
“Huh?” he says, as he lightly kisses my neck. “Break that down into layman’s terms for your non- lawyer boyfriend, while he kisses your sexy neck.”
“If you’re already my boyfriend and you need my legal services, there’s nothing preventing me from representing you. But if you just walk in off the street— or walk up to me in jail— and hire me as your lawyer and then we begin a relationship, that’s bad.”
“I get it. So we have to have sex before I re- hire you.”
His tongue traces a bee line down my neck and I arch my back, craving more. I want to keep feeling him all over me, and inside me.
“And I have to ask you to be my girlfriend before I re-hire you.”
“I think you already did that.” I laugh.
“Not genuinely enough,” he says, as he stops kissing me and looks into my eyes. “Riley Morrell, I love you and would love nothing better than for you to be my girlfriend. Will you please allow me the privilege of being your boyfriend?”
“Yes,” I say, as his tongue plunges into my mouth. And I have never meant anything so sincerely.
“Good, so we’ve squared everything away to the point where it’s okay for me to do this,” he says, as he gently caresses my nipples with both hands while kissing me.
“Definitely,” I say, my tongue becoming willingly trapped up with his.
He rubs my nipples in between his fingers, causing them to stand up straight and erect. I can tell that the same thing is happening to him in between his legs, as he grinds on me excitedly.
Then he lowers his mouth and sucks on one of my nipples while continuing to rub the other one. I moan and bring my pelvis up to meet his. I hold onto his hair while he rides me.
“Oh Jensen, that feels so good.”
He lifts himself slightly off of me and then removes my pants and panties. He takes in my entire body, up and down, with his eyes, and smiles at me in a dazed state. With one hand he grabs my breast and with the other he traces a finger up and down the outer lip of my most intimate area.
“Riley, I’ve thought you were so beautiful from the moment I first saw you.”
He reaches inside me and teases me by inserting a finger gently yet firmly.
“I want you so bad,” I tell him.
Take me now. Please.
He removes his pants as I reach into the dresser drawer for a condom, in a stack that had been intended for Brian and me but that rarely got used. Before he slips it on I get my first glimpse of his large penis.
“It’s perfect,” I say, reaching out to stroke it.
“It needs to be inside you,” he says, and wastes no time placing it at the entrance of my womanhood after putting on the condom.
Bending over again, he kisses me passionately while entering me. It feels like nothing has ever felt before. I had no idea sex could feel so good. He holds my legs up around his waist while he thrusts himself in and out of me.
Sometimes his hands travel over my hips and thighs, pausing to grasp my ass while he pumps deeper and deeper. When he reaches down to play with my wet, aroused nub, I just can’t help it anymore.
“You’re going to make me come,” I whisper, as he glides in and out of me with perfect rhythm.
“I want to make you feel so good, now and forever,” he says, as my moans get louder. I’m embarrassed, but he stops kissing me and says, “I love the way you sound.”
“Jensen. Jensen. Jensen.”
I say his name over and over as the cascade of heat and electricity rushes through me.
I can feel him throbbing and pulsing and then he grunts and pants. “Riley. I’m coming. You feel so amazing.”
He collapses next to me on the bed, with his arm around me, both of us a heaving mess.
“That was everything I imagine it would be, and more,” he says, looking deep into my eyes and then kissing me.
“I love you.”
I realize I hadn’t said it when he had said it to me, and right now it feels like a pressing need inside me: to return the three words that are so short yet so powerful.
“So will you let me hire you as my lawyer, Girlfriend Riley?” he asks, reaching out to playfully squeeze my ass.
“Of course. It will be my pleasure to defeat the bogus charges against you.”
“Then you’re officially retained,” he says with a wink.
This is going to be my favorite trial ever.
The day of my trial, I’m nervous. I know I have a good attorney— the best I could ask for, and it also helps that I have her in bed as well as in the courtroom— but, as she’s reminded me too many times in the past, everything at trial is unpredictable.
Both attorneys introduce themselves and the judge nods a greeting to them. Riley told me that at a pre-trial conference in chambers before the trial started, the judge had noted his surprise that she was back on my case. But she said he said it in a way that showed he was happy that she was still representing me.
I try to sit up straight and respectable, knowing that the jury is watching my every move. I listen to the prosecutor’s ridiculous opening statement: “This man may be a veteran but that shouldn’t stop justice from prevailing. He must be punished for the crime that he commi
And then I listen to Riley’s amazing opening statement— “Jensen Bradford is a decorated war hero who was merely defending and protecting his mother at the time this incident occurred.”
The scumbag boyfriend of my mother’s gets up on the stand and gives a sad sob story about how I repeatedly beat him to a pulp. You’re lucky you’re still alive, you douchebag, I think, as I try to look at him neutrally for the jury instead of with all the hate I actually feel towards him.
And then the State rests its case and Riley says, “I would like to call to the stand the defense’s first witness, Bobbie Jean Bradford.”
I whirl around in my seat, watching in shock as my mother enters the courtroom. I exchange glances with my equally bewildered brothers who are in the gallery, and then look up at Riley in confusion.
“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you she would be testifying,” she whispers. “But she wasn’t exactly… committed… and I didn’t want to get your hopes up if it turned out that she couldn’t make it.”
I can’t believe my mother is here, taking my side over one of her many no- good- loser boyfriends. And I can’t believe Riley was able to make it happen. I smile up at her in appreciation.
But at the same time, I’m also nervous about what my mother is going to say. She’s not exactly the most reliable witness, and I don’t know if Riley knows what she’s in for.
“Ms. Bradford, how do you know the defendant, Jensen Bradford?” Riley begins.
“He’s my son. My middle son, out of three boys.”
“And what happened on the day in question?”
“Bill Warner was over at my house and he was drinking and got mad at me for no reason. He began hitting me and pounding my head into the wall. I felt as if I was going to die. I could feel my life closing in on me and I even began to feel myself ascend into Heaven…”
Oh, Mom, you always did have a flair for the dramatic, I think, as Riley reigns her in with the next question.